Department of Educational Psychology


Date of this Version



The Counseling Psychologist 50:3 (2022), pp. 384–414.

doi: 10.1177/00110000211069598


Copyright © 2022 Caitlin M Mercier, Dena M. Abbott, and Michael S. Ternes. Published by SAGE. Used by permission.


Using a critical race theory framework and a convergent mixed-method design, this study examined the relationship between coping with stress and psychological distress among Black U.S. Americans (N = 155) during the COVID-19 pandemic in the context of race-based stressors (e.g., anti-Black racism). Path analysis revealed mixed support for hypotheses; avoidant coping was positively related to all measured facets of psychological distress, whereas socially supported coping was associated with none. Self-sufficient coping was negatively associated with only depressive symptoms. Qualitative analysis revealed four salient themes: (a) Race and the COVID-19 Pandemic, (b) Complex Pandemic Related Changes to Life, (c) Emotional Responses to the Pandemic, and (d) Coping with the COVID Pandemic. These themes suggested the pandemic disrupted participants’ ability to engage in, or effectively use, typically adaptive coping strategies and distress was exacerbated by fears for the safety of other Black U.S. Americans. Implications for training, practice, research, and advocacy are discussed.